Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Dying Tradition?

I used to write an annual Holiday Newsletter and as my moves increased so did my mailing list. The tradition of updating friends and family members actually started with my folks when I was born accompanied by memories of a fireplace living room wall adorned with reciprocal holiday wishes as I grew up on Grant Street in Arkansas. 

Dad arranged the photo sessions and eventually added composing those seasonal letters while Mom did the secretarial part, adding personal notes along with stuffing, addressing and posting. Using a dampened sponge to seal those envelopes/add stamps   (pre-self adhesives) was part of my involvement as a kid. So you could say I grew up with the annual holiday greeting.

Now due to my Mom's declining health, the phone has replaced  the mail system to keep in touch with a smaller amount of those friends and family members as time has whittled their list away. In fact since my Mom's blindness, they don't wait for the holiday season but spend much of each day on the phone. 

Many people have quit using snail mail to send greetings for a myriad of reasons, myself included.  Now, other technology is used for us to keep in touch. It's kind of sad in a way.  Whoever thought letter writing would become a dying tradition?

This year's received Season's Greetings
Thanks to those of you who continue to aid our failing postal system.  I  don't think I am alone in cherishing opening real mail, reading your news and seeing the family photos. Like my folks, I tape them up to enjoy during the holiday season... 

Allow me to use the blog world to wish you and yours a very Happy and Healthy New Year. Don't forget to stay in touch however you choose with both family and friends. Just stay in touch.

                                     Happy 2015!





Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Stretching the Holidays...

You know Holidays are supposed to be on certain dates but I got Natureman to accept the fact if the kiddos can't join us on one of the nights of Chanuka we could still celebrate after the holiday was over. Like seriously, isn't the point being together? 


Kylie and Abby

In fact our original invite coincided with the date when the daughter-in-law was gathering for an early Christmas celebration with her family. Unfortunately for all, their household ended up sick with the season's croupy cough and fever. When you have kids, it's inevitable one of them is going to bring it home. 

Anyhoo - Natureman assured me the crew was well so  we could celebrate Chanuka on the 11th night. (remember there are really only 8) We lit the memorah, said prayers, sang a song or two, chowed down on Natureman's latkes (potato pancakes), had the traditional 'hot and cold' gift search and of course played dreidl, the top game. 
Kylie, the eldest of the littles was appointed official dessert maker. Here she is hard at work doing a great job assembling the dessert dreidls. She can tell you only need 4 ingredients:

pretzel sticks
marshmellows
frosting
chocolate kisses

First a pretzel stick is stuck in one end of the marshmellow after which frosting is applied to the other end.



                The unwrapped kiss is placed on top of the frosting.

Chocolate stays on thanks to the frosting.
And voila we have a finished product... 





                         Wishes for a Happy & Healthy 2015
                                                from
                            The End of the Rainbow Valley!


Monday, December 29, 2014

Not Again, MIA


During the cold winter months when out door activities are limited here in the country, Natureman and I have resorted to a vacay type of activity, working on a jigsaw puzzle. It certainly fills the dark dismal winter days. You may remember me mentioning us setting up a puzzle table with 2 chairs for both of us to work on this project last winter.  But this year instead of the one1,000 piece puzzle, Natureman returned home one day proud as a peacock as he had bought a box that contained not one but four 1000 piece puzzles. 

Oh good, I had thought, 4 winters are taken care of now. Yet as soon as the box's first puzzle, a farm scene, was completed and sent off to a new home, I had barely breathed a couple sighs of relief when Natureman opened another one of those puzzles.
I wanted to throttle him. (Those sunless days can do that to a person living in the middle of nowhere.) 


See the missing piece?
This puzzle, a church scene, was really a challenge. I was so relieved as it neared completion when lo and behold it was more than obvious one piece was missing. Look to the right bottom corner of the church. I couldn't believe it. 

Deja vu. Remember one piece missing from last year's puzzle?  Anyhow, I went straight to empty the shop vac and when that proved fruitless, the upright vacuum cleaner. NOTHING. NADA, How could this happen again? 

The game table this year was closer to all those rescued potted garden plants. I scoured the floor around the closest plants, searched their foiliage, looking even in their watering plates, all to no avail. Two days passed and still no piece. Then, it came to me as I was deadheading, I had almost moved the potted dahlias now dormant out to the garage but after noticing new foiliage, moved the pot to another set of windows just to see if others would also start growing. Take a look.
   


Do you see anything besides soil and the new growth? 

Look about mid pot...





Here's a closer shot. Oh my,
there lay the missing piece, a little damp but ready to fill its
place in the puzzle to make the Church scene complete.


Unbelievable!





Ssh, don't tell but I have hidden the box with the remaining 2 puzzles. This girl needs a break. SO, who wants the Church Picnic  puzzle? It has 1000 pieces awaiting to be put back together again. 
Life is never dull here in the End of the Rainbow Valley and you too could share the excitement...

Friday, December 26, 2014

FOTO FRIDAY: FLICK PICK


FOTO FRIDAY: Christmas Week-New Year has become a major release date for new films. Which flick did/will you choose for your first trip to the movies this holiday season? 


Since it's not Natureman's decision to join the masses  but my Christmas Day tradition to be a movie goer, I chose Unbroken  since Selma's not being released until January

Unbroken is very well done but not easy to watch with a real life protagonist who defeats all odds through his entire life. It's an intense 2 hour plus movie.

 Here's the trailer link:Unbroken

Our rating: two thumbs up. How 'bout yours?


**Last week's FOTO FRIDAY was Thing a Ma Bobs
Maybe you have since given/ received one such gift. Do tell.







Thursday, December 25, 2014

Living in a 'Christian' Country?


Don't get me wrong there's absolutely nothing wrong being wished Merry Christmas by someone who doesn't know I'm jewish.  It's nice that someone is so joyous in their celebration of their religious holiday they want to share that joyful wish. Yet, I repeatedly hear and see the argument by Christians at this time of year that they don't want the 'Christ' taken out of 'Christ'mas. NObody asked Christians to remove Christ out of their holiday. Wishing somebody Happy Holidays is not diminishing Christmas. Examination of the word holiday we see two words  'holy' day.


The fact is not everybody celebrates the same holy days.  In fact most of the world does not celebrate Christmas. Christmas is about Christ, his birth and about a Savior being born for 'Christ'ians not for Buddhists, Muslims nor a myriad of other religions besides judaism. 

This past week two international students came over during Chanuka. They never had heard of Chanuka before. Natureman and I shared our holiday.  It wasn't trying to convert them just to explain why we would be lighting candles, eating some fried food, even doing a small gift exchange. 

 My global buddy had handed me a Christmas card when I had picked her up. At the evening's end when I dropped her off at the dorm, I thanked her for the card she apologized because she didn't know that Jews didn't celebrate Christmas and it was a Christmas card.  She 'got it'. After a couple of hours at our home she understood not everybody in the U.S. celebrates Christmas. I told her and I meant it that I appreciated that she had shared her celebration with me with the card giving but after saying that I should have added how much it meant to me that she understood more about my religion.  

You see it's so much more than just these last 2 months of  Christmas taking over the airspace in this country as radio, tv and stores start pedaling their wares earlier and earlier. It's not just the merchandising. It's about a country founded on the principle of religious freedom. To allow peoples to practice their religions as they wish. 

The U.S. government's purpose is not to make "Christian" laws enforcing Christian beliefs, not respecting the beliefs/rights of others. Public servants are to represent all the people. Public schools are just that, public. Teaching our nation's children to respect differences, not resent them. Our job is to show children by example to be a 'good' person, a virtue not owned solely by Christians lest we forget Jesus was a Jew. 

Our emphasis at his holiday time should be we can all be better and work towards Peace. Peace for all mankind certainly shouldn't be limited to one month of the year. 

Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me...

Wishes of Peace from the End of the Rainbow Valley.




Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Don't Let the Light Go Out

Last night we shared lighting candles for the last night of Chanuka with a couple who summer home in a town even smaller than where we live. As the candles burned and the conversation flowed, it struck me how ironic 4 people originally from California, Florida, Arkansas and Minnesota found themselves together at this time. You see, we had originally been introduced by a mutual acquaintance who thought we should meet. Why? Because we shared being Jewish. 

This festival of lights, Chanuka, commemorates the rededication of the Temple and importance as the first fight for religious freedom. The right to practice religion should never be taken for granted so that even out in the middle of nowhere 4 Jews can gather together to celebrate in the still of the night as Jews all over the world also light their candles and recite the prayers together. 


May the Light within all of us burn brightly as we all strive for peace in our homes, our country and around the world. And may we all say, "Amen."

  Light One Candle                 





 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cross Cultural

Some may remember I lived a year in Taiwan when I was in college. It was a terrific year filled with a very Eastern culture. Besides studying Mandarin Chinese, I also took Chinese landscape painting and cooking.


At one time I could make a Chinese banquet with 14 different dishes. Cross my heart. But I have to admit it's been a long time since I have done that. In fact, it's been so long my children may not even remember those days.

Since my University Chinese Global buddy, Jie, had shared that she didn't know how to make sweijyau, Chinese dumplings, (Seriously?) I decided then it'd be a perfect activity for her 21st birthday. You see swei jyau (water dumplings) are a very traditional Chinese birthday food. The task is easier because you invite all of your friends over to help you make them. Jie obliged and even brought a friend with her. The more, the merrier and the sooner you can eat. Wink, wink.

We saved time by using premade wonton wrappers which happened to be square, so we placed an inverted bar glass a top the wonton cutting away the excess dough and creating circles. Do place a damp towel over the wrappers to not let them dry out.

The filling: (makes about 50)

1 lb hamburger (we don't do pork in our home)
1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
1 sm chopped Bok Choy/Chinese Cabbage
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 t garlic, diced 
1 t ginger, diced
1 t 5-spice Oriental  (optional)
1 T light soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
1  egg/ 1 T cornstarch as binder

small bowl/glass of water for assembling

Dipping Sauce:
 Heat 1/2 cup of soy sauce with
1 t ginger powder
Not real appetizing looking but it sure smelled good



In a large bowl, mix together beef, bok choy and scallion. Stir in sugar, salt, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, oil & cornstarch. 


Start large soup pot of water on stove to boil. Fill 1/2 to 3/4 full.






Place large teaspoonful of filling in the center of dumpling skin.
Moisten edges of the circle wonton by dipping a finger in the water and using that moistened finger to wet perimeter.

Now fold dumpling in half, pinching the center together first, then the end edges together to seal. (the water creates a  seal) If the filler leaks out, remove some the excess. Your goal is to encase the filling. Seal the ends as you would wrap a package, pinching the ends. Any technique is fine as long as you make sure the entire pouch is pinched shut otherwise the contents will escape when you cook them.
You can create a pleated pattern along the pinched edge by gently pushing together small folds to seal it. Continue process 'til all the wrappers are filled and dumpling pockets are made.
** See below for 'jyaudz' fried dumpling vs 'swei jyau' boiled ones.

2. Add dumplings to boiling water until they float to the top, about 5 minutes. I actually do this in stages and I will add, do not crowd the dumplings. For each batch bring the water to a full boil. Add the dumplings. Allow water to come to 2nd boil adding a cup of water. Repeat this process adding an additional cup of  water, and wait til the pot returns to a boil one more time and they are done just like... Use a strainer to remove. 

              Serve with a dipping sauce ie ginger soy sauce.





                                     Hen hau chr. (Yummy.) 

**You can also fry the dumpling instead of boiling them. When you fry the dumpling, the sweijyau becomes jyaudz which means fried dumplings. Use 1 T sesame oil in a skillet. When oil is hot, add jyaudz one side down, when brown flip over, adding 1/2 c of water. Cover and the water will evaporate while cooking for 5minutes.  

Since it was also Chanuka Saturday night and it's traditional to eat fried foods so we also fried some of our sweijyau. 

We are just so multicultural here in the End of the Rainbow Valley.





Monday, December 22, 2014

Luck Due to Others...


The Happy Bookers decided to hold our Holiday Party this year at a La Crosse wine bar, Wine Guyz, at their Holiday Wine/ Champagne Chocolate soiree. Our ticket also entitled us to a raffle for a chance to win   bottles of wine/ champagne or even a basket of goodies.

Besides the wine tasting and sampling a $62 bottle of champagne, Col Roger, my favorite tasting of the day BTW, there were a lot of chocolate goodies including a wonderful lava cake.



JoEllen and Sally

Violeta who had invited me to join the book group had already moved to Oregon so Jo Ellen, our new member was being welcomed to the group. I didn't say, "replaced," Violeta. Per Violeta's expectations, we did carry on the spirited book exchange game of books we haven't read as a group. Connie even brought an extra book to play in case one of us forgot... 
                                                       
Connie & Nancy
Did you hear me clearing my throat? I must have too much on my mind because I had forgotten so I still was able to play due to Connie's thought-fulness. And wouldn't you know her kindness was reciprocated almost immediately!

As the background music provided by Under Paris Skies and our laughter and spirit grew, (the wine didn't hurt) our anticipation grew for the raffle drawings and lo and behold - Connie, won a nice bottle of wine. Super exciting. Of course, I cheered for every winner as if I knew them. It's always more fun that way. The next drawing wouldn't be for at least another hour a couple of us would have to leave. Nancy handed me her ticket commenting that she tends to be very lucky.
Mary, Susie and Monica

I opted to stay a bit longer and see if Nancy's ticket turned out to be lucky. Well, who would have 'thunk' when the next set of numbers were drawn, it wasn't Nancy's number that got called but yours truly and I won a Spanish Cava, no less. It sure was nice of Nancy to pass on her luck.
I am so lucky and thankful to have such a great book group.  I'd like to make a toast to the Happy Bookers for many more great times together whether we are discussing books/whatever and a special welcome to Jo Ellen our newest member.
Wishes to all for a happy and healthy Holiday  Season! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

FOTO FRIDAY: A Thing- a - ma bob

FOTO FRIDAY has been on hiatus a couple of weeks since the 12 Gifts of Christmas needed to be out in a timely manner. If you didn't get to read them/participate in other FOTO FRIDAYS remember you can always click on older posts at the bottom right of each page. 

Anyhow on to a material type of gift giving for the people who just may have everything...

While in Little Rock buddy Chris and I attended the Arkansas Craft Fair as part of her birthday wishes and came upon a very unique item. I love seeing something new and different. Anyhoo, the Black Hollow potter who created these said for years he has spent countless hours packing up his wares into a van/trailer in addition to set up time. Well, he decided to do something different with much less demands to see how it would go. I tell you his booth always had people lined up to see his creations and they were selling like hotcakes.


Now can you guess what it is for? I have a feeling one needs to give this gift with instructions.

Guesses included candle/ pencil holders ... but the correct guess is a flower frog. You just place the ceramic frog a top a mason jar with water and insert your fresh flowers.  
 Now, isn't it just perfect for the person who has everything? They come in so many colors and designs. (You can find Bear Hollow Pottery on FB.)

Have you received a gift that is a bit unusual/ needed to come with instructions? Please do share. We'd love a pic and a story.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Winner... Kuri not Curry

You may remember my traditional Turkey( aka Martha Stewart) table decoration whose squash body serves as a bread holder. Its skewered bread tail feathers impale the squash base.
Isn't that orange yummy?

Well, this year that bod was not a pumpkin/butternut/acorn squash but a brand new variety from our garden called "kuri squash." Its beautiful orange graced the buffet table and I certainly couldn't let that 'holey' squash go to waste now, could I?

So the day after Thanksgiving after chowing down Turkey soup instead of going shopping, I perused squash recipes on line to encounter Southern Living's myrecipes.com squash recipes. Once again I wasn't disappointed as this was perhaps my most favorite thing to make for Thanksgiving although it actually was baked after the holiday.

A simple 10 steps and you too can enjoy this scrumptious and attractive squash dish.

                      Yummy Maple Syrup Glazed Squash

Ingredients 
As most of you know by now since I am out in the End of the Rainbow Valley and a store is not close by I almost always substitute with what's on hand... therefore note - the items in parentheses are the original recipe's suggestions)

1 kuri squash (3 acorn squash) halved and seeded
4 1/2 t olive oil
1 T light brown sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
Vegetable cooking spray
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c sherry cooking wine (sherry vinegar) and some balsamic 
1/4 c  maple (cane) syrup
1 T butter, melted
1/8 t ground cayenne (red) pepper
1/4 c loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley/cilantro, coarsely chopped

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 475°.
2. Slice squash half into 4 to 5 wedges,  tossing with olive oil, brown sugar, and salt.
3. Arrange squash in a single layer on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) jelly-roll pan.
4. Bake 40 minutes/until golden and tender.
5. Meanwhile, microwave cranberries and vinegar in microwave-safe bowl (30 sec HIGH).
6. Let mixture stand 10 minutes; drain.
7. Stir together syrup, butter, and pepper in a bowl.
8. Brush squash with half of syrup mixture. Turn squash over, and brush with remaining syrup mixture. 
9.  Bake at 475° 12 more min. / until golden brown.
10.Transfer squash to serving platter; top with cranberries and cilantro/parsley.
*The second time I made this recipe for a luncheon I used 3 larger acorn squash and 'doubled' every thing else. The skin was much thicker so after step 9  I removed the 'rind' and cubed the squash. Still beautiful and tasty. 

Many thanks to Southern Living for leading me to myrecipes.com for one of my most  favorite new recipes!
   Do let me know if you enjoy this squash dish as much as we did.




      

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DAY 12 of the 12 Days of Christmas...


Today marks the last entry of the 12 gifts we can give ourselves and others directly from the Huff Post Black Voices article "12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision" by Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard. This article was published Thanksgiving week but each day when we give thanks for what we have we should also give thanks for the opportunity to make our world a little better.

11. Be Accountable.

"This week, many families will gather together to give thanks. That this holiday also marks the beginning of the American war against indigenous populations is something we must also reflect upon; it is a reminder of how deeply white supremacy is engrained in our history and culture. It is also an opportunity to hold our family and friends accountable, to ask what they are doing to foster change, and to challenge the lies and misinformation that are being spread in the name of racial injustice. Every year, at my family's Thanksgiving, we read a poem to remember the genocide against the American Indians. It is a small step, but it breaks the silence. This work is not easy, but the stakes are too high. Just ask the families of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Ezel Ford, Kajieme Powell, Vonderitt D. Meyers, Jr., John Crawford III, Cary Ball Jr. Aura Rain Rosser, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin and so many more whose names we might not even know, whose hopes and dreams were cut short, whose families are, even now, gathering not to celebrate but to mourn."


Congress just passed law requiring all murders by police be reported with gender, age and race and situation

http://billmoyers.com/content/civil-disobedience-non-violence-and-overcoming-hate/

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DAY 11 of the 12 Days of Christmas...

Today marks the 11th day of the 12 gifts we can give ourselves and others directly from the Huff Post Black Voices article "12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision" by Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard. 

11. Do Something Beyond This Week. 

"Action has never come about through silence; change has not come through the process but instead via movements that have demanded it. That requires more than reading and responding during this initial swell of outrage. It requires action here and now, tomorrow and into the future. It requires change to laws, to our institutions and how we carry ourselves each and every day."

Noteworthy:
16 Quotes to Remind America that Black Lives Matter
 (also Huff Post Black Voices)


Monday, December 15, 2014

DAY 10 of the 12 Days of Christmas...


Continuing this week I will finish listing the last three of the 12 gifts we can give ourselves and others directly from the Huff Post Black Voices article "12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision" by Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard. 

10. Dream Big. 



"Imagining a future without racism is damn near impossible given the ways in which discrimination are built into our institutions. Seeing systemic racism is step one. Do that reading, thinking, self-reflection. Imaging a future without it is the necessary step two. What alternative models are there of policing? What might a just criminal justice system look like? Really consider breaking down institutions and building them anew, and then connect with organizations whose visions you love."

MARCH IN DC

Friday, December 12, 2014

DAY 9 of the 12 Days of Christmas...


Continuing each day this blogging week I will be listing the 12 gifts we can give ourselves and others directly from the Huff Post Black Voices article "12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision" by Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard.


9. When You Hear Racism From Your Community, Silence Is No Longer a Possibility. 


"We know that it can be uncomfortable to speak up, but it is necessary. We know how white people can speak when no one else is in the room. We know how blatant racism can still be. We choose to speak, even if it is uncomfortable."
How many of us speak up when we hear racist comments/ see racist actions? Wording is so important in these confrontations. The following youtube video is super helpful:Racist comment vs being a Racist 



Medical school students nationwide speak up...http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/10/us-medical-students-stage-die-ins-protest-against-police


Thursday, December 11, 2014

DAY 8 of the 12 Days of Christmas...


Continuing each day this week I will be listing the 12 gifts we can give ourselves and others directly from the Huff Post Black Voices article "12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision" by Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard. 

8. If You See Injustice Occurring, Do Not Stand Silently or Walk on By. 

"Do you see police officers engaging in a stop-and-frisk interaction? It turns out that it is entirely legal to film police interactions without interfering. Hold police accountable. Watch them. They may be less likely to engage in outright violence if they are being filmed. If not, the video can be critical evidence as police can claim that they were being assaulted, or charge disorderly conduct, when video evidence clearly refutes these claims. There are apps and organizations that accumulate these videos and data. Use them."



Last week a video was shared re: a Pontiac Michigan police officer responding to a call of black man walking around with hands in his pockets. Both men videotaped each other. That taping action may not always be possible so it can never hurt to have another camera filming. 
Videotaping




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DAY 7 of the 12 Days of Christmas...


Continuing this week I will list the 12 gifts we can give ourselves and others directly from the Huff Post Black Voices article "12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision" by Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard. 

7. If You Can, Give Money to Organizations That Are Doing Work on the Ground Locally or Nationally.

"Organizations doing truly radical and transformative work may have a hard time securing adequate funding from within the often-conservative philanthropic world. 

Do your research, and give
Here are a few of our favorite orgs: Ferguson Defense Fund; Youth Justice Coalition; DRUM NYC; Color of Change; Showing up for Racial Justice."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DAY 6 of the 12 Days of Christmas...


Each day this week I will continue listing the 12 gifts we can give ourselves and others directly from the Huff Post Black Voices article "12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision" by Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard. 

6. Know History.
"To understand the stakes requires understanding the history of racial violence, and the failures of the criminal (in)justice system to hold America accountable throughout America's short history. To understand rage, to understand white supremacy and the patterns of violence, and steps forward means knowing the history of lynchings and the Scottsboro boys; of Emmett Till and 4 Little Girls, of Sean Bell and Renisha McBride. The history of change, of organizing, or "ceaseless agitation" offers us a blueprint for action."

Below photos you were find short you tube video links about each.

Scottsboro Boys
Emmett Till
Four Little Girls
Sean Bell
Renisha McBride

Scottsboro Boys

Emmett Till

Four Little Girls

Sean Bell

Ranisha McBride